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[toggler title=”DISCLAIMER” ]All opinions in this column reflect view of the autor(s), not of Vocal Europe[/toggler]

[dropcap size=small]On 17 December, Vocal Europe published the article “NGOs in Europe: On Transparency and Double Standards”, in which Frederik Cyrus Roeder, Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), included a number of unfounded insinuations about Corporate Europe Observatory. In this reaction we want to address, point by point, the accusations made in that piece and set the record straight.

The Isvara Foundation, which was set up by Mr. Ayman Jallad in 2007, is one of eleven grantmaking foundations that currently support the work of Corporate Europe Observatory financially. The Isvara Foundation’s grantmaking is fully financed from a personal donation made by Mr. Jallad. The mission statement of the Isvara Foundation explicitly states that “The Foundation does not under any circumstances support groups involved in violent activities or armed struggle, nor any organisations or projects that directly or indirectly contribute to xenophobia, anti-semitism, racism or other forms of discrimination.”

[alert type=white ]This response was written by Olivier Hoedeman, Nina Holland, Margarida Silva, Lora Verheecke, Erik Wesselius from Corporate Europe Observatory.[/alert]

Frederik Cyrus Roeder bases his insinuation that Mr. Jallad is “admitted[ly] anti-Semite” on two weblinks that upon closer inspection turn out to be thin air. The first link leads to an undated post on the anonymous conspiracy blog spinwatch-watch (currently inactive). That page contains the following sentence: “The businesses that Ayman Jallad does want to uncover are the ‘American Jewish lobby’ […]” A footnote then purports to give a source to back up this statement. But if you follow that link, it turns out that Mr Jallad is not even being mentioned on that page!

The second link listed by Roeder leads to an opinion piece published in Euractiv in 2012. It turns out that the allegations against Mr Jallad and the Isvara Foundation are again based upon that unfounded Spinwatch-watch text.

We have challenged Roeder and the Consumer Choice Centre to come forward with evidence that the Isvara Foundation or its funder would be anti-semite. In their reply they only referred to the same web pages that we debunked in the previous lines.

Roeder’s claim elsewhere in his article, that CEO would not be a transparent organisation, also doesn’t hold ground. In CEO we have a tradition of collective writing. Any articles or texts on our website where no specific authors are named, fall under the responsibility of the full team. We are totally transparent about the composition of our team.

Earlier in 2017, CEO staffer Margarida Silva attended a public event organised by the Consumer Choice Centre. CCC makes a big point of the fact that she registered with her private email address. In reality, Margarida has been totally open about her affiliation to CEO in all other communications she had with CCC staff. You can read the full story here: Big Tobacco and right-wing US billionaires funding anti-regulation hardliners in the EU.

Finally, Roeder’s more general statements about EU lobbying transparency show a lack of understanding of the issue. Briefly:

*Roeder writes there is an unbalance between the requests for lobby transparency between corporations and NGOs. He has probably missed the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation, an alliance of NGOs of which CEO is a founding member. In fact ALTER-EU has been on the forefront of demanding more transparency and better rules around lobbying, BOTH for corporate lobbies AND for NGOs.

*Roeder brings up the fact that Monsanto lost its lobby badges to the European Parliament but fails to mention that Monsanto lost those badges because they refused to join an official hearing in the Parliament.

*Roeder mentions an own initiative report by Markus Pieper MEP about the transparency of EU funding of NGOs, but forgets to say that a vote on the Pieper report in the budget control committee was postponed as other MEPs considered the report biased and ungrounded. Any further steps depend on a European Court of Auditors investigation. Later this year, similar amendments were rejected in the INTA committee.

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